What Are Project Members’ ISD Project Mental Models and How Do They Affect the Management of ISD Projects?
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To help organizations better understand and improve the management of information systems development (ISD) projects, this dissertation aims to understand what ISD project knowledge and beliefs ISD professionals work with and how the knowledge and beliefs are organized in their minds. Drawing on the cognitive perspective using a mental model approach, I define a new construct, ISD Project (ISDP) mental model, which refers to ISD professionals’ knowledge and belief structures that help them understand, conduct, and manage ISD projects. Particularly, two essential elements of ISDP mental models - content and structure – were explored. Regarding the content, forty fundamental concepts were derived from literature reviews and cognitive interviews with 19 ISD experts. Analysis of 95 ISD professionals’ cognitive responses using Multidimensional Scaling revealed four types of evaluative beliefs - customer-, team-, enterprise-, and product-oriented beliefs. This new construct, along with its assessment procedures, provides a useful starting point for academics and organizations to explore the people factor in ISD. To investigate the impact of ISDP mental models, I examined work relationships between project managers and developers where effective work relationships are crucial to project success. Specifically, I explored how the similarity of mental models and an understanding of others’ mental models influence work relationships. Through a multiple case study on 6 project manager-developer pairs in different case conditions (i.e., similarity of mental models x accuracy of understanding), the results provide preliminary support that the project manager-developer pairs who hold accurate understanding have more effective implicit coordination - they are sensitive to one another’s knowledge, beliefs, and preferences and they adjust their task and interpersonal coordination accordingly. Accurate understanding also stimulates the process of knowledge integration in which the dyad builds upon one another’s knowledge to resolve project challenges. This dissertation contributes to the literature on ISD project management by capturing the organization of ISDP knowledge in ISD professionals’ minds and identifying underlying beliefs. Furthermore, it contributes to an understanding of how project managers and developers can coordinate effectively when they have high cross-understanding, despite dissimilarities of knowledge and beliefs.